Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday named Gil Sheffer as his temporary
chief of staff, replacing Natan Eshel who will leave his post at the end of
month after signing a plea bargain admitting misconduct toward a young female
Sheffer is currently in charge of the prime minister’s schedule
and, like Eshel, is considered close to the Netanyahu family.
issued a statement thanking Eshel for his “dedicated and good” service, and his
“important contribution” to the government. He said he appointed Sheffer to
ensure “continuity” inside the Prime Minister’s Office.
of Sheffer came just hours after the Civil Service Commission concluded its
investigation into allegations that Eshel harassed a female staffer, known only
as R., and invaded her privacy. During the investigation, which began last
month, the commission questioned 28 witnesses.
Eshel was questioned under
A Justice Ministry spokesman said that the investigation found
evidence of misconduct by Eshel and that the attorney-general and the Civil
Service Commission had agreed to approve the terms of a plea bargain with
Eshel’s attorney, Jacob Weinroth.
Under the terms of the plea bargain,
Eshel will resign from his post on March 1, and will agree not to return to the
Eshel admitted offenses of breaching civil service
discipline and of conduct unbecoming to a civil service employee. He agreed to
accept a punishment consisting of a severe reprimand for his
“The plea bargain reflects Mr. Eshel’s acceptance of his
responsibility, and has resulted in an appropriate outcome – the termination of
Mr. Eshel’s employment in the civil service,” the Justice Ministry spokesman
The Justice Ministry also said the agreement “respected R.’s wishes
not to be involved in legal proceedings,” noting that R. still refused to
cooperate with the investigation, although investigators and others had tried to
persuade her to testify.
R. is continuing to work inside the Prime
In a letter to Weinstein last month, R.’s attorney,
Harel Arnon, had asked that his client not be compelled to testify and said that
R. wanted to remain anonymous.
“Our client’s right, the right of
everybody, is to decide autonomously if she feels harmed by someone’s behavior
and if she wants to share those feelings with others,” Harel told
According to the complaint filed to the Civil Service
Disciplinary Tribunal, which Eshel will admit to, he formed a close relationship
with R. that was both inappropriate and unacceptable because of his superior
civil service rank.
This included intruding on R.’s privacy by logging
onto her computer without her permission, and by giving personal and private
information about R. to various people in the Prime Minister’s Office without
any professional reason for him to do so. Eshel also intruded on R.’s privacy,
using photographs of her taken at social events.
The Justice Ministry
spokesman said that the Civil Service Commission transferred the investigation’s
findings and an opinion from the head of the Civil Service’s disciplinary branch
to the attorney-general, Yehuda Weinstein.
“Mr. Eshel’s removal from the
civil service and his punishment are a message to all state employees, including
senior officials, which is that actions such as those uncovered during this
investigation are not to be ignored,” the Justice Ministry said.
ministry also said that those who first brought the suspicions against Eshel to
the attorney- general’s attention had acted correctly.
were brought to the attention of the attorney-general by cabinet secretary Tzvi
Hauser, communications director Yoaz Hendel and military attaché
Maj.-Gen. Yohanan Locker.
“The attorney-general wishes to
reemphasize that in a situation where a senior and powerful employee is
disturbing a subordinate who is too afraid to complain, then civil service
integrity requires that civil servants bring the information to the appropriate
authorities,” the Justice Ministry said.
Eshel released a statement
through his lawyers – Weinroth, Rachel Toren and Yael Dolev – saying that for a
month he has been at the center of a storm that has turned his life, and the
life of his family, into a nightmare.
He said the agreement presented him
by his lawyers removed suspicion that he committed indecent acts or sexual
“It is now clear to everyone that there was not a sexual
aspect to this affair,” he said.
Eshel added that – after consulting with
his lawyers, he decided to admit to “light disciplinary infractions,” quit his
position, and “continue with my life” because the sexual harassment “cloud” was
removed, and because of his health, age (he was born in 1947) and the fact that
a heavy financial burden that would be placed on him to completely clear his
R.’s attorneys, Arnon and Yitzhak Bam, said that R. did not
want to respond to the outcome of the investigation.
“R. wants to return
to her normal routine and to retain her privacy,” the lawyers said, asking that
the media respect her wishes.
The lawyers added that there would be no
further response from R. “Any other information from alleged ‘sources close to
R.’ are baseless,” they said.